Most preseason projections this year seem to have Rutgers finishing around fourth or fifth in the Big East, and slotted in to play in the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium against a Big XII opponent. Fair enough. The nascent game is considered the Big East's fourth-most prestigious bowl bid, and that's about where Rutgers will finish in the league this year. The Yankees are making a considerable investment in the game, and understandably want an anchor team that's guaranteed to sell tickets and generate local media attention.
ESPN's Brian Bennett went even further last Friday.
Put it this way: If Rutgers gets bowl eligible and does not win enough games to claim the BCS bid or the Champs Sports Bowl berth -- which is exactly what I think will happen -- then I'll be shocked if the Scarlet Knights are playing anywhere but Yankee Stadium this postseason.
That's a reasonable prediction. Rutgers has a very good chance of finishing fourth in the Big East, and there's going to be a lot of pressure from the bowl organizers to land the Knights. Would the above scenario be fair however? For one thing, there will probably be hard feelings in say, Storrs or Cincinnati, or the Huskies or Bearcats respectively are relegated to playing a lesser opponent in Birmingham or Tampa.
There's also the scenario in which Rutgers finishes third (and Notre Dame does not take the Champs bid, which it's entitled to once over the next four years). From the Rutgers perspective, there's considerable frustration over the Big East's generally crummy bowl bids. Who can forget being relegated to the Texas Bowl in 2006 because the Big East bungled negotiations with the (then) Continental Tire Bowl? Another sore spot was the Sun Bowl choosing Pitt because of its better OOC record in 2008, despite Rutgers finishing conference play as the Big East's hottest team. Providence can hardly afford to further alienate Piscataway after league consultant Paul Tagliabue's verbal blunder from last April.
If, and that's a very big if, Rutgers deserves to go to Charlotte this year, I think denying them that right will raise a firestorm of anger and resentment. That game has a better opponent, better weather, and more prestige. RU is already playing Army there in 2011. For an increasingly impatient fanbase, another middling bowl isn't a welcome site even for a young team that's not far from being a BCS contender. It won't come off well even if there isn't much better available to any Big East team. Yankee Stadium is poorly configured for football, and the Pinstripe Bowl's ticket prices happen to be outrageous, which likely only further whets their appetite for the Scarlet Knights.